Paris Review co-founder Peter Matthiessen will publish a new novel in the spring of next year. Matthiessen, who won the National Book Award in 2008 for his last novel, Shadow Country, said the new novel centers on “a weeklong meditation retreat at the site of a World War II concentration camp.”
Sylvia Plath’s final days have long been a source of fascination and horror for many readers. In a forthcoming unauthorized biography of Plath’s husband Ted Hughes, it is claimed that one of Hughes’s more contentious poems, “Last Letter,” was written after an argument the couple had the night before Plath took her own life. Ted Hughes: An Unauthorized Life is out next week.
If you’re in need of a great read this week, you’ll be glad to know that Byliner has compiled a list of 101 spectacular nonfiction stories from 2011. They run the gamut from investigative to personal to borderline trivial: There’s Mac McClelland’s incredibly daring and disturbing essay on working through PTSD through controlled sexual violence, alongside Jon Mooallem’s history of the high five. Happy reading!
A while back, I wrote about Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher, which may be the first novel in history written entirely in the form of recommendation letters. Now, at The Rumpus, Anjali Enteti sits down with Schumacher, who talks about writing by hand, the adjunct crisis, and why it’s okay that so many people are getting MFAs. You could also read our own Nick Ripatrazone on why MFA grads should teach high school.
“While the revolutionary milieu that was the source of many of the book’s events may have vanished, we have our own milieu.” At The Rumpus, Will Augerot re-evaluates John Dos Passos’s The USA Trilogy. He concludes that Dos Passos is more relevant than ever. Pair with: Our essay on the polyphonic novel.
The last meal is a curious staple of modern executions, not least because it involves, in the words of one death-row inmate, “putting gas in a car that don’t have no motor.” At Lapham’s Quarterly, an essay on the ritual’s history, one that includes mention of famous last meals like terminally ill French President Francois Mitterrand’s final dinner of “Marennes oysters, foie gras, and two ortolan songbirds.”